WASHINGTON — Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said that he found Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen credible.
“I believe he told the truth,” he told reporters outside the hearing room late on Wednesday afternoon, following a marathon day of dramatic testimony from Cohen.
Cummings also said that it “appears” that Trump committed a crime.
“Looking at the text and listening to Mr. Cohen, it appears that he did,” Cummings told reporters outside the hearing room. “That’s not for me to say. I am basing it on what has already been found. Mr. Cohen is pleading to charges where he said he was directed to commit a crime by the president.”
Cummings, though, said that he wanted to proceed “very cautiously” and has not decided what direction to take the committee next. With New York federal prosecutors and Special Counsel Robert Mueller still in the midst of investigations, “I think that there are still a number of shoes to drop. I think there’s more. I don’t know what it is.”
He noted that none of the Democrats in the hearing brought up the prospect of impeachment. “They did, but not us,” he said, referring to Republicans who have accused Democrats of moving toward removing Trump from office.
Cohen was swarmed by reporters as he exited the hearing, to the point where Capitol Hill police offers stepped in to control the flow of people exiting the Rayburn Office Building to catch up with him as he departed.
He gave a brief statement outside the hearing room.
“I am humbled. I am thankful to Chairman Cummings for giving me the opportunity today to tell my truth, and hope that as Chairman Cummings said, it helps in order to heal America.”
Cohen appeared emotionally moved as Cummings made a closing statement at the hearing in which he talked of seeing Cohen’s daughter on TV.
Cummings also chided Trump for referring to Cohen as a “rat.”
“When you call someone a rat, that is one of the worst things you can call them, because when you go to prison, that means a snitch,” Cummings said to Cohen. “The president called you a rat. We’re better than that. We really are.”
Cummings told reporters that he declined at least 150 requests for media interviews in recent months.
“The thing I did not want to do is just assume what he was going to say,” he said. “I wanted [Cohen] to come and say what he had to say and then try to tell you what we found out. I refuse to be a hypocrite.”
He added, “When my Republican colleagues, when they were in control, what they would do is they would go out, make big headlines, and then try to have a hearing to get the facts to catch up with the headlines. Usually the facts weren’t there.”
Cummings also said that the hearing was “at least an opportunity” to veer back to “normal” in the country.
“Two years ago, I said that when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were running against each other, I said that this was not about Hillary, and this is not about Donald Trump,” he said. “This is a fight for the soul of our democracy. And that statement is truer now than it was then.”
“Today, I think, was very important in that I tell my staff that 200 years from now, people will be reading about this moment. And so I will say to you, the press, get it right.”
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